In its latest move toward construction of the new water treatment plant and distribution system upgrades, Elkins City Council has passed the first reading of an ordinance to raise water and sewer rates in a two-step process.
The first of these increases will go into effect before the construction begins. This could be as soon as 45 days after the second reading is passed or about 270 days later if the area public service districts protest the hike and the West Virginia Public Service Commission is called in to set the rates.
The second increase is not scheduled to show up on customers' bills until after the construction is complete. The work is scheduled to begin "sometime" next year, council members and city officials have said.
The last rate hike came in at 26 percent in October 2010 in an effort to keep the city's water fund operating in the black.
The ordinance presented Thursday again came with the reasoning that first round of additional revenues will help the water fund make ends meet, while the second phase will go toward paying loans for the new water treatment plant and distribution system upgrades.
It's been several years now that the city has been working on this project and construction is yet to begin. Meanwhile, water rates continue to rise to meet needs not connected with the process.
This leaves us wondering if Council should not hold off voting on the second phase of the current ordinance until construction begins. Is there a possibility that pending costs may bring a third phase to this rate hike?